Our History

Our History

The College was established in 1864, the result of an idea by Richard Limpus, organist of St Michael's, Cornhill in the City of London.

His idea to form a body for the purpose of 'elevating and advancing our professional status' was enthusiastically welcomed by his colleagues, who elected Limpus as their first Secretary.

It was always Limpus's intention to obtain a Royal Charter, an ambition achieved in 1893 by his successor, Edmund Turpin.

Over the following decades the College concentrated on the work of raising standards in the profession by developing and administering the College examinations, as well as steadily building the Library collection.

These activities were augmented in the 1990s with a new education and outreach strand, work which has since grown into what is known today as the RCO Academy programme. Together, RCO Academy, the College examinations and accreditations, the library and our other activities help ensure that the College continues to maintain the mission established by the founders all those years ago.

In iRCO you can read a full history of the College.

College Arms

The grant of Arms to the College was made in 1972.

The Arms are described as follows: "Azure a Set of Organ Pipes proper in chief two Cherubs the Heads proper the Wings Or, Crest: On a wreath Or and Azure, a Centaur proper blowing a Trumpet Or." The Latin motto: In unitate vis est, translates as 'In unity there is strength'.

Presidential Robes

The President of the College is entitled to wear a unique badge and gown on ceremonial occasions such as the Conferment of Diplomas.

The Presidential Badge has 'Music, and achievement in that Art' as the basis for the inspiration of its design. The general form suggests a lyre shape, but the main feature of the design is an organ, the manuals of which are in gold and enamel. From this springs not only the garter containing the name of the College, but the pedestal on which stands the ivory figure of Music playing the reeds. Forming a decorative background are the pipes of the organ in silver. The whole design is held by laurel leaves in gold and enamel.

The inscription on the back records reads: 'This badge of office was presented by a number of music lovers to the Royal College of Organists to be worn by the President, 23 July 1932'.

The work is carried out entirely of 18-carat gold, ivory and enamel, the organ pipes being of fine silver. It was designed and made by Cecil Thomas, ARBS.

The Presidential Gown is of Red Tudor rose damask of the Oxford Doctors' pattern, with bell-shaped sleeves. Sleeves and facings are in RCO pearl shot silk.